Watch: Biden Engages In Desperate Gaslighting, Blames MAGA For America’s Ills
In a recent interview with ProPublica, Joe Biden engaged in a short but revealing interview that covered the spectrum of establishment media and far-left talking points concerning the durability of conservative movements (including MAGA) and their supposed threat to “democracy.”
ProPublica, a “non-profit” organization that claims to be an independent news organization, has been at the center of a number of stories attacking conservative leaning officials and groups, including conservative Supreme Court members like Clarence Thomas. They have also been criticized for taking millions in donations from leftist elites including Charles Rockefeller and George Soros; throwing lavish parties for oligarchs in New York while at the same time asserting that they are “shining a light on abuses of power and betrayals of public trust.”
The group offers a series of leading (or well rehearsed) questions to Biden, who mumbles through the interview with his typical brand of intermittent incoherence. However, there are a few major points to be taken from this interaction.
The discussion itself comes off as rather desperate – The level of focus on Trump, MAGA and January 6th reflects panic in the wake of a recent ABC poll, which shows Trump ahead of Biden by 10 points in a hypothetical election battle in 2024. With Trump far ahead of any other candidate in the GOP primaries, the rematch may already be set in stone. What is Biden’s response to this development?
Democracy Is “Under Threat?”
ProPublica launches into the interview with the admission that when they talked to Biden during the last election, they did not expect things to go well for him. This was a sentiment held by millions of Americans including many Democrats leading up to November 2020, which is why the debate over election manipulation is so believable. It is difficult to comprehend how a candidate that drew weak crowds and little enthusiasm during his campaign somehow garnered over 81 million votes – With a huge spike in votes counted overnight after most Americans went to bed.
Both political parties have in the past questioned the validity of vote counts and election integrity, but rarely has the demand for a recount or the protests that followed been demonized so completely. That said, the repetitive claims on J6 as an “insurrection” have not had the affect on public sentiment that Democrats intended. The fear mongering over the protest (an unarmed conservative march which was far less violent than many major BLM marches) has been the only play at the disposal of Democrats seeking to paint conservatives as the biggest threat to American stability since the Civil War.
Because, when your candidate has been at the helm of the country during the worst stagflationary crisis in 40 years and people’s savings accounts are quickly drying up, the only thing that might save him is the idea that the other guy will make things even worse if he’s allowed into office.
Rule By The Majority?
The far-left does not represent the majority of Americans, but this notion is consistently implanted in the establishment media just as it is implanted in the above interview. And it bears repeating – The US is not a democracy, and it is not rooted in rule by the majority. The US is a Constitutional Republic ruled by checks and balances and inalienable rights. The political left believes that if they repeat the same falsehood over and over again that eventually the public will believe it.
Rule Of Law?
Americans got a serious taste of what Democrats perceive to be the “rule of law” during the BLM riots and the covid lockdowns. They have seen double standards put in place, for example, to protect the image of leftist BLM rioters while maliciously slandering conservatives. They witnessed BLM being given free rein to amass in the streets during lockdowns while conservative anti-mandate protesters were compared to terrorists.
They also witnessed numerous BLM related violent crimes and attacks be ignored by the media while they attempted to destroy a young man’s life (Kyle Rittenhouse) for defending himself against that same violence.
Then there were the numerous attempts in 2021-2022 by Democrats to enforce medical authoritarianism, including attempted vaccine passport programs and an array of punishments for the unvaccinated. Keep in mind that this was all done in the name of a virus with a tiny 0.23% Infection Fatality Rate (officially). Mandates are not laws, they are unconstitutional dictates from on high.
“Christian Nationalists” And Hateful Revolution?
Such double standards lead to rebellion, and Biden knows this. Which is why the interviewer dares to address it in the first place. ProPublica, like all leftist platforms, seeks to marginalize the feelings of rebellion across the country as a product of “Christian nationalism” (which means different things to different people). For progressives, the terminology is supposed to conjure images of neo-nazis and evil rednecks. The wording was carefully chosen to associate all patriots with racism.
Biden immediately latches onto the propaganda by talking about Strom Thurmon and “hate” hiding just under the surface of America. But Strom Thurmon was originally a Democrat and didn’t switch to Republican until he started changing his image. And didn’t Biden give a eulogy at Strom Thurmon’s funeral? Hasn’t Biden made numerous comments in the past that would be construed as racist by today’s progressive standards?
The reality is that Democrats have long been a party associated with hate and nothing has changed. Except now they view minorities as property on the voting plantation instead of the traditional slave plantation. Numerous minorities are also conservative and libertarian patriots that do not like the current path of the country; are these people also inspired by hate?
Elon Musk Ruining “Journalistic Integrity” With Free Speech?
Yes, it’s true, not long ago information was bottlenecked by a handful of corporate media entities which engaged in editorial spin to omit facts and misinform the public, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Now, because of digital media they are dying and this can only be a good thing. Biden thinks otherwise, with yet another dig at Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter/X.
It is perhaps hard to grasp how important Twitter was to the establishment as a filter to remove undesirable truths from public discussion. The level of salt on display among leftists and globalists when it comes to Twitter introducing even a modicum of free speech makes it clear that the platform was a key asset.
The issue is really one of saturation – In order to control the public narrative the establishment must control all major media and social media structures. If even one large platform slips through the cracks then people will have alternative access to information and that platform will rise in popularity, just as Twitter/X user numbers are now hitting record highs.
With the covid lockdowns, as long as some places in the US and in the world remained free from the mandates then people would be able to see that there was a better way to handle the pandemic that did not require oppressive restrictions. When people can see an alternative that works better, they will naturally gravitate to it. The same goes for information, media and political leadership.
As long as alternatives outside the bottleneck exist, people like Biden and his ilk cannot dictate popular discourse. The goal of such people will forever be to eliminate alternatives; leaving only the choices they allow.
Mon, 10/02/2023 – 14:40
How Great Is Our Economy If The Bottom 50%’s Share Of The Nation’s Wealth Has Plummeted Since 2009?
Something has been going very wrong in the US economy for a very long time, and whatever is going wrong accelerated from 2009 to the present.
Longtime readers know I’ve covered America’s soaring wealth and income inequality for many years, and so I read economist Noah Smith’s recent post entitled Working-class wealth is improving with keen interest. I respect Noah’s work, which is why I follow his Substack posts.
Here are some excerpts from his commentary:
“One of the truisms many Americans learned during the 2010s that turned out not to be so true is the idea that the wealth of the working class is relentlessly falling behind. The likely reason that people “learned” this “fact” is that it was true up until the financial crisis of 2008, and people didn’t recognize it and get mad about until the crash.
For that we have to turn to the (Federal Reserve’s) FRED website. But when we do, we can see that the bottom 50% of households have seen strong wealth growth in real terms since 2012.
Now, 50% of the country’s households holding only 2.5% of the wealth is still very dramatic inequality. We should remember that some piece of this is just the life-cycle of wealth — young people who haven’t had time to build wealth and old people who have spent down most of their retirement account will look poor even if they will be comfortable or were comfortable in middle age. But even after accounting for that life-cycle effect, America is going to have very steep wealth inequality.
Trends are important, though. And this trend is a positive one. The fact that working-class wealth has been recovering as a share of America’s total wealth for a decade, even as every group has increased its wealth, says that something is going right in the U.S. economy. A rising tide is lifting all boats, and it’s lifting the boats at the bottom more than the others.”
Data hound that I am, I decided to explore the FRED database for charts that would confirm his no-doubt sincerely issued claim that “The fact that working-class wealth has been recovering as a share of America’s total wealth for a decade, even as every group has increased its wealth, says that something is going right in the U.S. economy.”
What I found is the exact opposite of his claim: the bottom 50%’s share of total assets and financial assets have fallen sharply since 2009. In the greatest expansion of net worth / assets / wealth in US history, the bottom 50%’s share of this massive expansion of wealth has declined by 25%.
Rather than increase as Noah claimed, the working class’s share of America’s total wealth has plummeted. Let’s look at the data, as depicted on the FRED charts. Let’s start with the chart Noah referenced, which does indeed show the wealth (net worth) of the bottom 50% rising smartly over the past decade, from a nadir of less than $1 trillion to $3.6 trillion in 2023:
For context, let’s look at household net worth, which rose an astounding $90 trillion from $56 trillion in 2009 to $146 trillion in 2023. As the chart above shows, the bottom 50% garnered $3 trillion of this $90 trillion in gains, or 3%. This modest percentage is not supportive of Noah’s claim that “A rising tide is lifting all boats, and it’s lifting the boats at the bottom more than the others.”
Here we see the 167 million Americans in the bottom 50% own $3.6 trillion, the top 1% –3.3 million Americans–own $45 trillion, a staggering 12.5X the net worth of the bottom 50%.
The top 0.1%–330,000 Americans–own $18.5 trillion, an astonishing 5X the net worth of the 167 million Americans in the bottom 50%.
Next, let’s look at each segment’s share of total assets. The bottom 50%’s share of assets plummeted 25% since 2009, from 8% to 6%.
The share of the top 1% soared 26% since 2009:
The share of the top 0.1% skyrocketed 34% since 2009:
These charts show the bottom 50%’s share of America’s assets hasn’t risen, it’s cratered. The rising tide of $90 trillion in additional wealth since 2009 has raised the yachts of the top 1% and the top 0.1% such that the bottom 50% share of assets declined. The bottom 50%’s leaky boat–as measured by their share of assets–actually took on water.
Financial assets are important because financial assets generate income and economic security. let’s look at each segment’s share of the nation’s vast financial assets.
The bottom 50%’s meager share–167 million American’s share of the nation’s stupendous financial assets–fell 26% from 3.1% to 2.3%–a sliver so thin that it’s essentially signal noise.
Meanwhile, the top 1%’s share of financial assets rose 24% since 2009, more than 15X the bottom 50%’s share of financial assets.
The top 0.1%’s share of financial assets soared 34%% since 2009, 6.5X the bottom 50%’s share of financial assets.
Noah’s claim of “A rising tide is lifting all boats, and it’s lifting the boats at the bottom more than the others.” is akin to being behind 49-0 in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter and cheerleading the team’s increase in total yardage gained from 11 yards in the 2nd quarter to 33 yards in the 3rd quarter–a positive trend.
Noah claimed the financial metrics of the bottom 50% are a positive trend. If we consider the bottom 50%’s share of total assets and financial assets, this claim is not supported by the FRED data.
Noah then extended this claim to an even larger claim that “something is going right in the U.S. economy.”
The message of the Federal Reserve’s data depicted in the charts is the exact opposite: something has been going very wrong in the US economy for a very long time, and whatever is going wrong accelerated from 2009 to the present.
Those actually living in the bottom 50% (as opposed to jetting around to conferences) might find Noah’s ponderings that the bottom 50%’s impoverishment is a statistical anomaly generated by temporarily impecunious youth climbing their way to wealth, and retirees who spent their wealth and are now comfortably impoverished somewhat risible. The reality is more likely mac and cheese from the dollar store prepared in an overcrowded flat or a trailer park and rapacious credit card interest rates and exploitive late fees.
By all means, let’s look at the data before making expansive claims.
* * *
Mon, 10/02/2023 – 14:20
A September To Forget: Here Are The Best And Worst Performing Assets In September, Q3 And 2023
Both September and Q3 saw poor performance for markets across the board: as DB’s Henry Allen writes in the bank’s quarterly performance review, over Q3, or just 11 of the 38 non-currency assets the German bank tracks, were in positive territory, and in September, only 7 were positive making it the worst month of 2023 so far.
broad The declines had several causes, but the most important one was the sense that central banks were likely to keep interest rates higher for longer – until something breaks – alongside a $20/bbl rise in oil prices over the quarter. The losses also added to September’s reputation as the worst month for financial markets over recent years. Indeed, it was the 4th year in a row that the S&P 500 and the STOXX 600 were down for September, as well as the 7th year in a row that Bloomberg’s global bond aggregate was down for the month.
Here are some of the key highlights from the report, with full details below.
September was the 4th year in a row that the S&P 500 (-4.8%) and the STOXX 600 (-2.0%) were down for September, as well as the 7th year in a row that Bloomberg’s global bond aggregate was down for the month.
US 30yr Treasury yields saw their biggest quarterly climb (+83.9bps) since Q1 2009.
10yr JGBs nearly doubled (+36.5bps) to 0.76% in Q3, to the highest level since 2013.
Brent Crude oil prices were up +27.2% in Q3 to $95.31/bbl, which is their biggest quarterly rise since Q1 2022 when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.
The dollar index strengthened by +3.2% in Q3, aided by a sharp rise in US real yields. Conversely, other major currencies weakened against the dollar, including the Euro (-3.1%), the Japanese Yen (-3.4%) and the British Pound (-4.0%).
On a YTD basis, the NASDAQ still leads the way (+27.1%) with the S&P (+13.1%) strong even with the September/Q3 sell-off. However, the equal-weight S&P 500 is “only” +1.8% in 2023, which highlights the narrowness of the rally.
On a YTD basis, the Nikkei (+9.1%) and Stoxx 600 (+7.9%) remain buoyant even with a -6.6% and -5.0% correction in Q3 respectively. However the Hang Seng is -7.2% YTD following a -4.1% decline in Q3.
Even with a bad year for fixed income, US HY (+5.3%), EU HY (+5.0%) and EM bonds (+4.1%) has shown that carry has ultimately won out in 2023, even if their returns are broadly in line with short-end cash rates.
Quarter in Review – The high-level macro overview
When it came to financial assets, the biggest story of Q3 was the massive bond sell-off, which sent yields up to multi-year highs around the world. For instance, the 10yr Treasury yield ended the quarter up +73.5bps at 4.57%, and at the intraday peak on September 28 it was as high as 4.686%, which we haven’t seen since 2007. Yields moved higher across the curve but there was also a clear steepening. That left yields on 2yr Treasuries up +14.8bps to 5.04%, whilst those on 30yr Treasuries saw their biggest quarterly increase since Q1 2009, with a rise of +83.9bps to 4.70%. It was much the same story elsewhere too, with the 10yr German bund yield up +44.8bps to 2.84%, which hasn’t been seen since 2011. Meanwhile in Japan, the 10yr yield was up +36.5bps to 0.76%, which is the highest since 2013.
Central banks played a role in that sell-off, as investors moved to push out the likely timing of any rate cuts. For instance, at the Fed’s September meeting, the FOMC raised their median dot for the fed funds rate in 2024 by 50bps, suggesting that there would be fewer cuts next year than previously thought. That’s been reflected in market pricing too, with the timing of a first 25bp rate cut from the Fed pushed out from Q2 2024 to Q3 2024. Meanwhile, the ECB hiked their deposit rate to an all-time high of 4% in September.
Concerns about inflation remained in the background as well, partly thanks to a fresh surge in oil prices over Q3. In fact, Brent Crude oil prices were up +27.2% to $95.31/bbl, which is their biggest quarterly rise since Q1 2022 when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. In part, that followed the news that Saudi Arabia and Russia were extending their production cuts to the end of the year. In the meantime, there was also a growing focus on persistent budget deficits and the impact that would have on rates, not least after Fitch Ratings downgraded the US credit rating in August from AAA to AA+.
Another theme of the quarter has been growing indications that global economic data is softening. In the US, the 3-month average growth of nonfarm payrolls now stands at just +150k, which is the weakest that’s been since the initial wave of the pandemic in 2020. And in the Euro Area, the composite PMI has been in contractionary territory throughout Q3, with readings below 50 in July, August and September.
This backdrop meant that equities had a weak performance, with the S&P 500 down -4.8% in total return terms over September. That’s the worst month of the year so far for the index, and leaves it down -3.3% over Q3 as a whole. It is still positive on a YTD basis, however, with a +13.1% gain, although those gains have been driven by a relatively narrow group of stocks, with the equal-weighted S&P 500 only up +1.8% YTD. It’s also been a weak quarter for equities elsewhere, with the STOXX 600 (-2.0%) and the Nikkei (-3.4%) also losing ground.
Which assets saw the biggest gains in Q3?
Energy commodities: Oil prices saw a strong rebound in Q3, which followed a run of 4 consecutive quarterly declines. Brent crude was up +27.2% to $95.31/bbl, and WTI rose +28.5% to $90.79/bbl. Natural gas prices also moved higher, with those in Europe up +12.8% to €41.86/MWh, after a run of 3 consecutive quarterly declines.
US Dollar: The dollar index strengthened by +3.2% in Q3, aided by a sharp rise in US real yields. Conversely, other major currencies weakened against the dollar, including the Euro (-3.1%), the Japanese Yen (-3.4%) and the British Pound (-4.0%).
Which assets saw the biggest losses in Q3?
Sovereign bonds: It was the worst quarterly performance for sovereign bonds in a year, with losses for US Treasuries (-3.4%) and Euro sovereigns (-2.5%). The moves mean that both are negative on a YTD basis again.
Equities: Equities were down across the board in Q3, with declines for the S&P 500 (-3.3%), the STOXX 600 (-2.0%) and the Nikkei (-3.4%). The main exception to this pattern were energy stocks, with those in the S&P 500 up +12.2% over the quarter.
Finally, here is a summary of performance by assets class denominated in local FX as well as USD, for the month of September…
…. for Q3…
… and for 2023 YTD.
More in the full note available to pro subs.
Mon, 10/02/2023 – 14:00
Supreme Court Case About Financial Regulator Sparks Industry Anxiety
Some in the financial services industry are nervous about how the Supreme Court will rule in a payday lending industry challenge to the constitutionality of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that is being heard this week.
A ruling against the powerful regulator in CFPB v. Community Financial Services Association of America (CSFA) (court file 22-448), which will be heard Oct. 3, could cause vast economic upheaval, an attorney representing big players in the financial sector said.
At the same time, another attorney rejected these apocalyptic warnings, saying that even if the court rules against the agency it probably wouldn’t prevent the CFPB from operating and would give Congress an opportunity to pass new legislation to fix any constitutional infirmities it may find.
The federal agency, which regulates consumer financial products such as credit cards, mortgages, and car loans, was the brainchild of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Democrats fiercely defend the CFPB, formed in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, saying it serves a useful function as a check on corporate power. Legislation creating it was enacted in 2011.
Republicans accuse the agency of overreach. The CFPB was targeted by the Trump administration, which disputed its constitutionality.
The CFSA, which represents payday lenders, sued over the CFPB’s rule that prevented lenders from trying to withdraw payments from borrowers’ bank accounts after two consecutive attempts failed because of insufficient funds.
A payday loan is a short-term loan, typically for a small amount such as $500 or less that is expected to be repaid with the borrower’s upcoming paycheck. The high-interest loans, which generally require proof of identity, income, and a bank account, appeal to borrowers with bad credit. The lender usually requires a signed check or permission to electronically withdraw money from the borrower’s bank account.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled in favor of the CFSA, finding that the CFPB’s unusual funding mechanism was unconstitutional so it couldn’t make the rule.
That mechanism was created to keep the agency independent. Although it may seek funding from Congress, the agency is excluded from the normal congressional appropriations process, and instead receives most of the money it needs to operate from the Federal Reserve System, which collects fees from member banks.
But that independence is precisely what makes the funding system unconstitutional, the 5th Circuit determined. The mechanism violates the U.S. Constitution’s appropriations clause, which states, “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”
The clause “ensures Congress’s exclusive power over the federal purse,” which is needed to make sure that other branches of government don’t exceed their authority, the appeals court stated.
“Wherever the line between a constitutionally and unconstitutionally funded agency may be, this unprecedented arrangement crosses it,” the 5th Circuit stated.
Christian Adams, a former attorney at the Department of Justice, seemed surprised the Supreme Court was hearing the “super complicated” case at all.
“The Supreme Court seems to have settled this. It’s sort of peculiar why it is that the United States has dug in,” he said in an interview.
“I mean, the Supreme Court already has ruled that the whole agency is outside the checks and balances of the Constitution. So it’s hard to understand why we have to keep going back to the Supreme Court on that.”
Mr. Adams is also a sitting member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation.
The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Sept. 18, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Second Challenge in 3 Years
As he noted, this is the second challenge in three years to the constitutionality of the CFPB to reach the Supreme Court.
This appeal gives the court’s 6–3 conservative majority an opportunity to continue its campaign to restrain the so-called administrative state by curtailing the authority of regulators.
The Supreme Court issued a ruling in June 2020 altering the bureau’s structure but upholding its constitutionality.
In Seila Law LLC v. CFPB, the court held 5–4 that the structure of the CFPB was unconstitutional, because its director, who must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, couldn’t be fired by the president at will and that the agency was therefore insulated from political accountability. The court held that the agency could continue to exist under new rules that allowed the president to fire the director at will.
In the Seila Law ruling, the court noted the existence of the controversial funding system but didn’t topple it, as some critics of the agency had hoped.
But the new case could have catastrophic consequences if the Supreme Court doesn’t tread carefully, an attorney representing powerful industry lobbies told The Epoch Times.
‘Walking in a Minefield’
Robert Loeb, a partner in the Washington office of Orrick, Herrington, and Sutcliffe, filed a friend-of-the-court brief (pdf) on behalf of the Mortgage Bankers Association, the National Association of Home Builders, and the National Association of Realtors.
The brief did not recommend a specific course of action to the court, but instead focused on making the justices “aware that how they rule in the case matters,” Mr. Loeb said in an interview.
“When you’re walking in a minefield, you should be cautious of where you’re stepping.
“And if you’re going to go big, you need to be careful on how you constrain the decision so it doesn’t have unintended effects.”
“A good chunk of our economy is based on the real estate business, mortgage business,” so any Supreme Court ruling in this case “could have severe repercussions for pretty much all of the American economy as a whole,” he said.
“Do they rule in a way that draws into question every CFPB regulation and suggests its invalidity is limited to this one regulation? Are they delaying their ruling in a way that gives Congress a chance to fix the funding while the current regulations are allowed to persist?”
If the court were to rule “in a very broad way which suggests the invalidity of everything the CFPB has done and all its regulations, it could have some very dramatic effects and the Supreme Court could accidentally walk into that.”
If the CFPB “goes down because its funding is bad, then that is going to put a cloud over everything, including mortgage regulations, which the whole industry and the mortgage economy relies upon,” Mr. Loeb said.
‘Tell Them Not to Worry’
Attorney Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice, a conservative legal advocacy nonprofit, had a different perspective.
“In general, corporate America doesn’t like a lot of regulation, but then they become used to and dependent on the regulation, and they’re, ‘oh, my God! If you took away the CFPB we’d have chaos,’ forgetting that, how long have we had a CFPB? Ten years or something?”
The world went on before the CFPB was created “and I’m sure would do fine without the CFPB now, but we’re not really talking about the CFPB going away, so tell them not to worry,” he said.
The worst the court “can do is basically say that it has to be funded by Congress instead of by the Federal Reserve, and I’m sure that would give Congress some time to make a statutory change.”
“Sometimes the court just declares, basically rewrites the statute.”
“So if I had to guess, I would guess that even if they were to say it was unconstitutional, they will just give Congress time to rewrite the statute, and I’m sure Congress would.”
“We will see what happens, but one way or another, the CFPB will survive,” Mr. Levey said.
Mon, 10/02/2023 – 13:40
Are Small Nuclear Reactors The Answer To Big-Tech’s Energy Crisis?
Microsoft hints at its nuclear plans by posting a job for a “Principal Program Manager Nuclear Technology” to explore integrating SMRs into its operations.
Small Nuclear Reactors offer quick deployment, reduced costs, and enhanced safety features, with over 80 designs under global development.
Challenges like sourcing materials for SMR development, particularly from politically complex regions, may delay their commercial rollout.
Microsoft could be the first of several companies to prepare to use small nuclear reactor (SMR) technology for its high energy consumption, as AI and other technologies become more widely used. There has been great enthusiasm around the potential of SMRs, which could be built faster and at a much lower cost than a traditional nuclear reactor. This month, Microsoft posted a job opportunity for a “Principal Program Manager Nuclear Technology,” suggesting its interest in using SMRs in the future, to support its energy-intensive operations. As companies begin to use a vast range of digital technologies in their day-to-day operations, their energy consumption could increase substantially, making the use of low-carbon nuclear power increasingly attractive.
SMRs are advanced nuclear reactors that have a power capacity of up to 300 MW(e) per unit, equivalent to around one-third the generating capacity of a traditional nuclear reactor. SMRs are much smaller than traditional reactors and are modular, making it simpler for them to be assembled in factories and transported to site. Because of their smaller size, it is possible to install an SMR on sites that are not suitable for bigger reactors. They are also significantly cheaper and faster to build than conventional nuclear reactors and can be constructed incrementally to meet the growing energy demand of a site.
There are strong safety margins included in SMR production, meaning that the potential for the unsafe release of radioactivity to the environment is significantly reduced. These systems can be shut down automatically, without human assistance, in the case of a malfunction. At present, there are over 80 commercial SMR designs under development worldwide, aimed at responding to a range of needs. Although companies are still trepidatious about investing in SMRs as their economic competitiveness in use has yet to be proven. As energy companies begin to roll out SMRs within the next decade there will be a greater understanding of their applicability and the costs involved.
Despite still being in the development stage, Microsoft appears to be one of the first companies to demonstrate its interest in SMRs. As companies continue to digitalise operations and conduct high-energy operations, they will need an increasing amount of energy to power their activities. For example, AI researchers suggest that training a “single large language deep learning model” such as OpenAI’s GPT-4 creates around 300 tonnes of CO2. The average person is responsible for creating around 5 tonnes of CO2 a year, showing just how significant this is.
Microsoft now appears to be drawing up a roadmap for the use of SMR to power its computation needs. This month, the company posted a job description to hire a nuclear technology expert to lead the company’s technical assessment for integrating small modular nuclear reactors and microreactors “to power the datacentres that the Microsoft Cloud and AI reside on.” The post reads that Microsoft is seeking a “principal program manager for nuclear technology”, who “will be responsible for maturing and implementing a global Small Modular Reactor (SMR) and microreactor energy strategy.”
This is not the first time the tech giant has shown interest in nuclear power. In May, Microsoft signed a power purchase agreement with Helion, a nuclear fusion start-up, to purchase electricity from it starting in 2028. And Bill Gates, Microsoft’s co-founder, is the chairman of the board of Terrapower, a company that is currently developing SMR technology. Although there has been no suggestion that Terrapower will provide Microsoft with any nuclear reactors.
Microsoft is showing an early interest in integrating nuclear power into operations. But, as more companies are using energy-intensive technologies, they will require vast amounts of energy to power their activities. Meanwhile, governments worldwide are putting increasing pressure on companies to decarbonise operations, with some introducing carbon taxes and others encouraging the use of clean energy sources through financial incentives. Renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, can take years to develop, and acquiring a stable clean energy source also means investment in battery technology. However, as the use of SMRs becomes more commonplace, their fast manufacturing time and small land footprint will likely appeal to companies looking for alternative clean energy sources.
Despite the optimism around SMR technology, a commercial rollout is likely still a long way off due to recent difficulties in acquiring the materials needed to develop these reactors. Many SMRs under production at present will run on uranium at enrichments as high as 15 to 19.75 percent, known as high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). However, this is currently only commercially available from Russia, with which many governments and private companies have cut ties following the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year. Chris Levesque, the CEO of TerraPower, explained “It has become clear that domestic and allied HALEU manufacturing options will not reach commercial capacity in time to meet the proposed 2028 in-service date for the Natrium demonstration plant.”
There has been a rise in the popularity of SMR technology, thanks to its small size and relatively low-cost and fast manufacturing potential. While the commercial rollout of SMRs is still far off, it could provide the vast amounts of low-carbon energy required to meet the world’s growing electricity needs. And tech companies, such as Microsoft, will likely be some of the first to invest in SMR technology as they look to meet their rising computation needs while striving to decarbonise operations.
Mon, 10/02/2023 – 13:00
EU Pledges Lasting Support At ‘Historic’ Kiev Meeting As America Steps Back
After President Joe Biden over the weekend signed a stopgap funding bill that did not include aid for Ukraine, given Congressional Republicans are blocking it, European leaders have vowed Monday to commit to lasting support for Kiev.
EU foreign ministers are taking part in a “historic” meeting in the Ukrainian capital, even as the war grinds on into its 20th month. “We are convening in a historic meeting of the EU foreign ministers here in Ukraine, candidate country and future member of the EU,” the bloc’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell announced. He said it is to “express our solidarity and support to the Ukrainian people,” but also cautioned that the meeting “does not have the aim of reaching concrete conclusions and decisions.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba praised the EU at a moment of simultaneous disappointment with Washington as billions in US aid hangs in the balance. “For the first time ever the foreign affairs council is going to sit down outside of its current borders — outside the borders of the European Union — but within future borders of the European Union,” Kuleba said in a press briefing alongside Borrell.
France’s foreign minister Catherine Colonna framed the meeting as intending to signal Moscow that Europe is ready to stand by Ukraine for the long term, even as US support is set to wane or possibly be halted altogether for the first time. “It is a demonstration of our resolute and lasting support for Ukraine, until it can win,” she said in a press statement.
“It is also a message to Russia that it should not count on our fatigue. We will be there for a long time to come.” Colonna said this at a moment the Kremlin is celebrating the clear ‘war fatigue’ out of Washington. Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said from Moscow the same day that in the West, “Fatigue will lead to the fragmentation of the political establishment,”
Days ago, CNBC wrote that “Ukraine is trying to keep its international backers close as the spillover effects of the war with Russia — as well as the thorny issues of diplomatic gaffes, conflict fatigue and elections — threaten to upset its alliances and damage support for its cause.”
“Opinion polls in both Europe and the U.S. carried out this summer show there has been an overall decline in support for measures backing Ukraine, particularly when it comes to additional funding and the supply of military equipment,” the report underscored.
At Monday’s Kiev gathering of EU foreign ministers, Germany’s FM Annalena Baerbock said Europe must be ready to increase its support to protect the Ukrainian people ahead of the cold winter months. She called for a “winter protection plan”…
“Ukraine needs a winter protection plan of air defense, generators and a strengthening of the energy supply,” she said in Kyiv, as quoted in AFP. “We saw last winter the brutal way in which the Russian president wages this war, with targeted attacks on critical infrastructure such as power plants.”
“Regardless of what happens in the US, the EU will continue supporting and increasing its support for Ukraine”, says EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell.
Unelected bureaucrat decides to drag millions of Europeans closer and closer to Armageddon. Just another day in the EU. pic.twitter.com/f7sW0RtL6G
— Thomas Fazi (@battleforeurope) October 2, 2023
“With every village, every meter that Ukraine liberates, with every meter where it is saving its people’s lives, it also paves its way into the European Union,” Baerbock said additionally.
Still, as The Wall Street Journal says in a fresh report, America’s “step back” has sent “shockwaves” across the Atlantic:
The U.S. decision sent shock waves across the Atlantic. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed Sunday that his country would fight on to victory, saying there is no “expiration date” for its willingness to resist Russia.
On Monday, in a show of solidarity with Kyiv, European foreign ministers held a meeting in Ukraine with Zelensky and his foreign minister in attendance, a rare gathering outside the bloc for the European officials.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Kyiv is working with both parties in Congress to ensure the “incident” over the weekend isn’t repeated.
“We don’t feel that the U.S. support has been shattered,” he said on Monday.
Below: The United States has by far led the way with military support to Kiev; however, the EU has pledged the most overall financial support, also to keep civic institutions and services afloat amid the war…
Notably absent from the EU meeting was Poland, Hungary, and Latvia. “The Polish and Latvian representatives were ill,” a Ukrainian government official claimed.
But clearly at least in the cases of Poland and Hungary, tensions with Kiev have been on the rise, particularly over grain imports. Poland has led the way in extending a blockage on all Ukrainian grain in order to protect its own farmers.
Warsaw also shocked allies last month when it declared no more future arms and funding for Ukraine, amid an intensifying war of words which has also seen Polish officials stress they must look out for their own defense as the number one priority.
Mon, 10/02/2023 – 12:40
US Supreme Court Rejects Challenge To Block Trump In 2024
Authored by Jack Phillips via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours)
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take a longshot challenge to former President Donald Trump’s eligibility on New Hampshire’s ballots during the 2024 election.
John Anthony Castro filed an appeal with the Supreme Court several weeks ago and claimed that the former president should be disqualified under a reading of a section of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment. Mr. Castro, a Texas lawyer who is running for president, claimed President Trump partook in an insurrection against the federal government due to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach.
“The decision by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida dismissing Petitioner John Anthony Castro’s civil action on the grounds that he lacks constitutional standing to sue another candidate who is allegedly unqualified to hold public office in the United States pursuant to Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Mr. Castro wrote in a petition for a writ of certiorari (pdf).
At the same time, he asserted that because he is a Republican candidate, President Trump’s name on the ballot injures his ability to obtain donations. According to records from the Federal Election Commission, Mr. Castro has raised exactly zero dollars and appears to have given his own campaign $20 million.
His petition with the high court comes as a number of left-wing activist groups have tried to block the former president from appearing on state ballots, using a rationale similar to Mr. Castro’s arguments.
For example, the left-wing group Free Speech for People wrote to the secretaries of state of Florida, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wisconsin, calling on them to not include President Trump on state ballots. Six Colorado voters also filed a lawsuit earlier in September to block him from appearing under their interpretation of the 14th Amendment, which was written in the aftermath of the U.S. Civil War in the mid-19th century.
However, even Democratic secretaries of state appear to have little appetite in blocking President Trump on those grounds. Some legal analysts have also said that the insurrection clause under the 14th Amendment was targeting individuals who fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War.
“We’re not the eligibility police. We are responsible for ensuring that basic facts are met to get someone on the ballot,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat who has frequently been critical of the former president, told Axios in September. She was responding to calls from pressure groups to keep him from being on the ballot in her state.
As for Mr. Castro, he’s filed lawsuits in multiple states, including Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming, according to a recent Newsweek interview. He also intends to submit court papers in Massachusetts and others.
President Trump has not issued a public comment on Mr. Castro’s claims. Several weeks ago, Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung told Newsweek about Mr. Castro: “Who’s that?”
Mr. Cheung has been critical of lawsuits and efforts to bar him from ballots under interpretations of the 14th Amendment.
“The people who are pursuing this absurd conspiracy theory and political attack on President Trump are stretching the law beyond recognition, much like the political prosecutors in New York, Georgia and D.C.,” Mr. Cheung said in a statement to news outlets last month, adding: “There is no legal basis for this effort except in the minds of those who are pushing it.”
The former president wrote on Truth Social in September that the 14th Amendment claims are merely “election interference” and represent “just another ‘trick’ being used by the Radical Left Communists, Marxists, and Fascists, to again steal an Election.”
Meanwhile, retired Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz argued over the summer in an opinion article that President Trump cannot be disqualified under the 14th Amendment’s Section 3. It’s because, he wrote: “the amendment provides no mechanism for determining whether a candidate falls within this disqualification, though it says that” Congress can vote to “remove such disability” with a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate.
“A fair reading of the text and history of the 14th Amendment makes it relatively clear, however, that the disability provision was intended to apply to those who served the Confederacy during the Civil War,” he wrote. “It wasn’t intended as a general provision empowering one party to disqualify the leading candidate of the other party in any future elections.”
The justices rendered their action on Mr. Castro’s claim on Oct. 2, the first day of their new nine-month term. However, it might not be the final time the Supreme Court is asked to evaluate the 14th Amendment-related claims against the former president because similar litigation is playing out in lower courts.
Mon, 10/02/2023 – 12:20